Taking a rather retro look to its design ethic, Paul Rigby reviews the Tannoy Eaton stand-mount speakers
I know that it’s a question of personal taste but I just love the look of Tannoy speakers. I also know that their design philosophy dictates, to some extent their final design approach but I wholeheartedly support their decision not to ‘go thin’ like just about every other sheep-like, scared-of-their-own-shadow, loudspeaker manufacturer on planet Earth. I’m so used to seeing thin speakers. Speakers, so slim, they disappear within their own anorexic slenderness if viewed head on.
I often wonder if the hi-fi industry is sacrificing itself on the alter of interior design. A slave to some obscure marketing perception that money is to be found in the lifestyle arena. Wherever and whatever that is. A PR man’s dream that speaker manufacturers have to please, what they call, the ‘little woman’ back home (you know, the one who stands in the middle of the front room wearing a pinny, holding a feather duster and permanently lives in 1956.)
The entire raison d’être of so much loudspeaker design often starts from a design perspective. Not a sound and music perspective. My god, speakers are packed with enough compromises as it is. It’s nigh on impossible to produce the perfect speaker given all the tools you need, anyway. Never mind adding to the problems because you have to satisfy Homes & Garden magazine.
Which, as I say, is why I like Tannoy.
Tannoy raises a lower frequency modulated middle finger to the industry, daytime TV home makeover programmes and the soft furnishings department in Laura Ashley.
The meaty looking Eaton speaker is a prime example of what Tannoy is all about. More so, in fact, because the Eaton has direct links to the original, 70s-era HPD (High Performance Duel) Series. You can see the original models, pictured below (many thanks to Hamiltononkeith on Youtube for the image and you can hear the originals in action playing a slice of Pink Floyd, if you want a demo of that early sound)
Now under new ownership, Tannoy has looked again at the Eaton design. The new Eaton incorporates changes, as you might expect. The driver and electronic component technology, for example. Each Eaton loudspeaker cabinet is hand made at the Coatbridge, Scotland workshop from 19mm MDF with plywood internal bracing plus damping. There are 12mm rubber pads on the base and twin, front-firing ports, on the upper front fascia which will aid room positioning.
If you check out the images here, you’ll see how the 10” (254mm), paper Dual Concentric Driver (with no dust cap) dominates the design, which includes two independent channels to separate the low frequency and high frequency sections of the driver. The high end is handled by a a 33mm aluminium/magnesium alloy domed tweeter with a tulip wave guide.
A front mounted 2-band “energy control panel” allows you to boost or cut the lows and/or highs to suit your taste. This beautifully designed area is almost Victorian in its finish.
You will also find heavy duty 24 carat multi-layer gold plated WBT bi-wireable binding posts on the rear plus a fifth binding post to, “…reduce RF interference and improved mid range clarity.” Bridging connectors are including if you want to connect single wires to your amplifier.
With an 89db sensitivity, the speakers span 538 x 376 x 250mm and weigh 20kg. The speakers arrive with a nylon grill cover but I removed them for testing. The speakers are finished to high standard. I mounted them on low and wide speaker stands.
In terms of component matching, I would lean towards valves. I did give the speakers a quick solid state amplifier test using a Leema Tucana II but I didn’t feel that the match worked. Lots of precision and focus but no soul. Not the fault of the Leema, just a match-up issue.
I’ll add a necessary caveat. I’ve offering a view from my ears. You might like the solid state-backed sound with the Eatons. Which is all the more reason, when looking to buy, to try your best to arrange a thorough demo to make sure that your proposed chain ‘feels’ right.
I began by spinning a beautifully mastered and pressed vinyl version of The Fall’s Frightened from a first pressing of Live At The Witch Trials. For a few seconds, I was motionless and a bit dumb-founded. The nature of the stereo imaging was just staggering. I’d never really heard anything like it before. Many speakers take the soundstage and present it to you in a fairly flat manner. Then some of the good examples push the stereo image back and provide depth and a slice of 3D to add a firming image.
Not the Tannoys.
What the Eatons did was to pick up the lead singer, Mark E. Smith, and drag him forward into new space. Then they placed air and space around him. I felt that I could have risen from my chair and walked around him. That was how crafted the image was. Not so much 3D as hologrammatic!
You’ve also not heard bass proper bass, until you’ve heard it from a large cone surface. And I don’t mean the floppy, Jamaican reggae DJ rig-style of large coned bass either. Tannoy do bass like no other. This track is dominated by the drums and, hence, the bass is not just important here, it is absolutely critical. The Eatons take the bass but don’t add that irritating artificiality that many speakers give you: the punchy, thwack that pretends to sound powerful. No, the Eatons bring bass from the very basement of hell and it rumbles up from that space, from the place that Beelzebub keeps his ladders, bikes and leaf blower. It slowly bubbles to the surface like a lower frequency tidal wave and booms at you quietly and slowly and with threat. Real threat. Tannoy’s bass has no need to shout. No need to be ‘punchy’. You know that ‘Ooooo’ exclamation that the Minions use in the film, Despicable Me? That’s what I did when I first heard the Eaton’s bass. Yet, the bass was never sluggish. It was mobile, swift and fleeting when required.
So much for the soundstage and bass, what of the ever important upper frequencies? I found the treble, from the cymbals, informative, slightly warm but wholly informative. I had a feeling that the treble was emanating from a big piece of metal: which it did, of course. Hence, treble also had substance and weight. Upper mids offered a similar response with the manic lead guitar offering plenty of clarity and detail to provide insight and an awareness of exactly what the player was up to in terms of application and effort.
I tested the Treble Energy plug and was impressed how it affected sound. This was no gimmick-like EQ that you might find on a DAC. Adding +1.5db on the roll off really open up the upper frequencies, adding air in the upper mids and adding emphasis to this region. Great to really push well recorded LPs but maybe too much for slightly compressed fare. Nice to have the option, though.
Similarly, lowering the Roll Off by 2db added a touch of bite to the upper mids but in subtle terms, enough to enhance detail and lift the lead guitar to interesting levels.
What I like about these switches is that they are real world and practical options. The sonic change is real but the steps are not too large.
I then changed the music to jazz and Gogi Grant’s version of the standard, By Myself. This LP has been mastered with obvious compression and so needs careful handling to perform well. Grant performs in front of a relatively complex jazz-tinged orchestra.
What really impressed me from the off on this track wasn’t the expected bass but how the Eatons handled the lead vocal. Grant has one of those vibrato-rich voices which can be utilised and thrown about to express all kinds of emotion. Some speakers fail to control it, though, making it sound like a windsock in a hurricane. The Eatons grabbed the Grant voice and gave it freedom to manoeuvre but never allowed it to lose its form or character. This meant that Grant ‘owned’ the song. She commanded it, took a lead in directing where and when it moved here and there and, thus made the entire performance far more palatable and enjoyable.
We now know all about the Eaton’s bass but, here, there was a real character-lead upright bass in which resonances played an important part. The brass, meanwhile, occupied an airy bubble of their own. The added space applied to the brass gave them their own reverb tails which added a sense of dynamism when the brass pitched in. A splendid track, made so by the Eaton’s handling of the disparate frequencies.
The same could be said for Japan’s 12″ version of I Second That Emotion. Highlights includes the Sylvian signature delivery which, via the Eatons, sounded as if it emerged from his diaphragm. Detail and insight was such that the harmonies behind his lead vocal were delightfully detailed, sweet-sounding and tuneful. Meanwhile, secondary percussion such as the simple wooden block was open, clear and succinct.
Before you even connect the Tannoy Eaton speakers, they look big, bold, meaty and strong which, it has to be said, will not appeal to those looking for a more aesthetic streamlining. If all you care about is music though – and if you are buying hi-fi of any sort, you really should – then the Tannoys will not only please, they will delight and, quite often, shock (in a nice way, of course). They present music in a structured and organic fashion and, while you can tweak the sonic edges with its excellent front fascia switches, the basic ‘level’ sound quality is quite superb being balanced and informative. If you have forgotten how music can amaze you, try and demo a pair of Tannoy Eatons and be reminded all over again.
TANNOY EATON SPEAKERS
GOOD: bass with plenty of awe, soundstage imagery, tonal realism, midrange detail
BAD: aesthetics will put off some
Origin Live Sovereign turntable
Origin Live Enterprise 12″ arm
Transfiguration Proteus cartridge
Icon PS3 phono amplifier
Leema Elements CD Player
Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp
Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers
Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing upgrade
Vertex AQ & Atlas cables
Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components
All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner
Geoffrey7th October 2017 at 5:34 pm
Now that’s more like it!
Paul Rigby9th October 2017 at 9:15 am
Mike Bickley11th October 2017 at 7:50 am
You refer to HPD as High Power Dual, I always thought it was High Performance Dual? A minor point, Tannoy may have rebadged it!
Mike Bickley (user of 12″ HPD’s since 1975, the Chatsworth cabinet)
Paul Rigby16th October 2017 at 11:30 am
Hi Mike – sorry for the reply delay, just moved house! I reckon you’re right Mike – I’ll change that. Thanks for the correction.
Peter16th October 2017 at 7:43 pm
Paul – your first three paragraphs say it all1 I have a pair of Tannoy Mallorcans (early 70s) – great clunking things – they sound brilliant. A bit bashed up (superficially) and they’re not THAT bad looking, but too often design (and purchase) decisions are based on how they look rather than how they sound.
Paul Rigby17th October 2017 at 10:56 am
Tim17th October 2017 at 11:03 am
Paul – what size room did you listen to these in? How far from the wall do they need to go?
Paul Rigby17th October 2017 at 11:28 am
Hi Tim – my listening room was around 16ft x 15ft…ish. I toed them in quite severely which helped the image and about a foot from the wall. You might want to experiment with this depending on room size and shape.
Mark30th October 2017 at 10:07 pm
I would put aesthetics as the first reason to buy it,they are wonderful!
It’s nice to see speakers that looks like speakers and not like vacuum cleaners.
I’m sorry for the very bad taste people that don’t like them.
Joseph Kajewski28th January 2018 at 4:24 am
Hard to find these beauties in the states, I would love to hear them. I have a pair of Tannoy Turnberry s that I love dearly.
Would you know the status of Tannoy, at this writing. Many Thanks. Joe
Paul Rigby28th January 2018 at 12:59 pm
Hi Joesph – first stop is the Tannoy website. Click here and the Buy at the top and enter the USA: https://www.tannoy.com/brand/tannoy/home
Mario bertini26th February 2018 at 8:23 pm
Ragazzi a che altezza vanno posizionate su piedistalli?
Paul Rigby26th February 2018 at 8:39 pm
Practice and experimentation is recommended but begin with the tweeter at ear level.
Robert Kovler4th October 2018 at 1:56 am
Have you heard the Zu audio dirty weekend speakers? If so, how would you compare the two?
Paul Rigby4th October 2018 at 10:25 am
I have yet to properly test the Zu speakers Robert but, considering the price differential and the technology involved, I would have to put them into two different price sectors, different levels of performance and sonic expectations. No doubt the Zu speakers offer great value, though.
Dean Leroy5th October 2018 at 9:14 pm
I’ve listened to these speakers with a Naim set up (250, etc) but noted you recommended valves. I was wondering what you might think of class A Sugden as an alternative. They have a new integrated 50 watt anniversary just coming out I thought might go well with the Eatons. Could you offer an opinion?
Paul Rigby6th October 2018 at 12:54 pm
I don’t see why the Sugden wouldn’t work well with the Eatons, Dean. Class A’s purity of sound would, I reckon, be a nice fit.
Dean Leroy6th October 2018 at 5:59 pm
Very kind of you to answer Paul. Your positive reply (re: class A amplification) is kind of in agreement with what I suspected would be appropriate for the Tannoy.
It would be wonderful if you could somehow get your hands on one of these new ANV 50’s for a listen, I believe it has a switching power supply that’s somewhat unusual and your opinion would be valuable to many of us.
Paul Rigby7th October 2018 at 5:42 pm
No problem and yes, good idea Dean. I’ll endeavour to track one down.
Peter van Valderen18th December 2018 at 3:51 am
I have a pair of Eaton’s from the early 1980 period. Just like the ones in your article. Still love them. Can you tell tell anything about the difference in sound. I assume that the Tannoy sound will still be present.
Paul Rigby18th December 2018 at 10:44 am
Im afraid I didn’t do an A-B comparison between the original Eatons and the new model iteration Peter. Hence, my comments can only be general and rather vague, so don’t place too much emphasis upon them please. For what its worth, I would say that the imagery – which is quite stunning – remains and has possibly been enhanced for the new model along with the rest of the sonics. Almost an Eaton+ perhaps? If you have the originals, I’d probably stick with those but I’d heartily recommend the new models if you don’t.
Richard22nd January 2019 at 12:12 pm
I have just ordered the Arden Legacy versions – for once cheaper to buy something in the UK … did you try any of the bigger tannoys?
Paul Rigby22nd January 2019 at 12:18 pm
Not yet Richard but they’re on my ‘to-do’ list 🙂
William Malouf18th March 2019 at 6:44 pm
I enjoyed this review. Back in the 1970s, I mated a pair of Tannoy Eatons to a McIntosh 240 and have never had any reason to change this set up. I am so happy to see this new version emerge. Out of curiosity, what stands did you use and what would you recommend
Paul Rigby18th March 2019 at 10:38 pm
Thanks William – I had some fashioned from left over oak from a local friend of mind which isn’t incredibly helpful to you, I know. That said, in a similar material, I’m pretty sure that HiFi Racks have some quality (and I have to admit rather pricey) stands that should do the job.
Michael Torneus8th May 2019 at 3:58 pm
Thank you for the review.I was just looking for a review of the Legacy versions. I`m on the way to (maybe) purchase either Eaton or Cheviot. I just wanted to ask if you miss anything when played rock music? Can understand that the Eatons sounds very good with Americana type or Jazz music. Thanks. //Michael
Paul Rigby8th May 2019 at 6:40 pm
Hi Michael – not a problem 🙂 In terms of rock, I recall that I was very happy with the rock outing from The Fall and was impressed with the speakers overall power. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
James Han17th November 2019 at 1:36 pm
Hello Michael, greetings from the States. Would you offer an opinion as to which of the sub-$8k Tannoys might be best suited for a 3800 cu. ft. room (16 x 27 x 8′)? Or am I looking at this calculus improperly; i.e. Tannoys should not be “sized” according to room dimensions but along some other scale?
James Han17th November 2019 at 1:38 pm
Oops, I mean to say Hello Paul! Apologies for that confusion. Early morning here and I haven’t downed my cup of java yet.
Paul Rigby18th November 2019 at 9:44 am
Hi James – take a look at the Cheviots from the Legacy Series. They’re in a similar vein to the Eatons. Kinda.
James Han17th November 2019 at 1:40 pm
But of course I welcome opinions from any other well-informed audiophiles with Tannoy experience.
James Han18th November 2019 at 2:14 pm
Thanks Paul. And so, should I assume from your response that you don’t know if Tannoys should get “sized” according to room dimensions? IOW, it’s simply a matter of bringing them all in and determining which seems to sound “best” according to one’s individual sonic preferences?
Trying to get ANY advice on this from Music Group/Tannoy in connection with my question is impossible.
Paul Rigby19th November 2019 at 9:56 am
Hi James – more a rough guide, based on my Eaton experiences and the room they sat in. Buying any Tannoy, I would encourage you to seek out a home demo. I would be pushy towards any retailer on this point. Forceful, in fact 🙂 You’re paying enough.
tony dinero10th April 2020 at 4:06 pm
Hi Paul, I bought the Tannoy Eatons, partly based on your review, and the fact that I love the looks. I have to say that I really love these speakers and they are pairing quite nicely with my Sugden A21se class A integrated.
Paul Rigby11th April 2020 at 12:13 pm
Lovely, glad you like them Tony. And that’s a nice amp to pair them with.
Tony dinero11th April 2020 at 1:30 pm
Yes Paul, they are a beautiful speaker in every way. The Sugden, although not loaded down with features, is a really wonderful class A amp. So both the AMP and the tannoys both made in Scotland which is pretty cool! I just subscribed, as I really enjoy your reviews and style, keep up the great work Paul!
Alex4th May 2020 at 11:27 am
Hi Paul, I love the Tannoy aesthetic, and have owned a couple of the Revolution range (DC6T and DC4). But my room is on the small side (about 9 feet square). Would something as large as the Eaton stand any chance of working well in that situation?
Paul Rigby4th May 2020 at 11:45 am
Hi Alex – these speakers would threaten to over-excite your room in terms of bass resulting in bass bloom I reckon. I’d look at a pair of smaller stand mounters.
Alex4th May 2020 at 2:44 pm
Thanks Paul – you have confirmed what I feared to be the case! Alex
Barry7th July 2020 at 12:30 am
Hello from Canada. What height of speaker stands do you recommend for the Tannoy Eatons?
Paul Rigby7th July 2020 at 10:54 am
Hi Barry – stands that reach around your ear height when you’re seated in your listening room. So it sorta depends on you, really. I would take a look at the Fortis range from HiFi Racks which were made for classic Spendors but should fit ok: https://www.hifiracks.co.uk/collections/speaker-stands/products/fortis-speaker-stands
If you like them, I’m sure the company will be able to help you out with any fine tuning in terms of fit and height for the speakers and room. I’d take some measurements in your listening room too.
Tony dinero23rd July 2020 at 11:19 pm
For stands to go with the eatons, I highly recommend atacama…they have a stand that is about 18 inches high and the proper dimensions on both the top and bottom plate to properly support the large eatons.
Paul Rigby24th July 2020 at 8:45 am
Thanks for that, Tony.
Marcus J. Swift13th August 2020 at 6:01 pm
Thanks for that review Paul. It’s good to see Tannoy going back to their best, and then improving even further. Never mind streets ahead, like they always were, they must be a whole town ahead by now! Dual concentric drivers always have that advantage over every other woofer-tweeter system, that they have the perfect phasing of a single full range driver, which is the principal reason why Tannoys are so good. My own 1979 10″ Ascot T145 Tannoys still stand up as one of the best bookshelf speakers ever made. I say bookshelf – I had to use adjustable frame units to fit them! But they are the perfect size and power for my living room, and bizarrely they can handle much bigger rooms, still with aplomb too. Like you, I have them angled inwards, to create that perfect 3D sound stage. So glad that Tannoy are still going, and I loved your creative descriptions of the sound they make!
Paul Rigby14th August 2020 at 9:24 am
Many thanks for your kind word Marcus and yes, I was impressed with the Eatons.
yigal ohana26th February 2021 at 4:34 am
I own Moon 240I integrated amp rated 50 wpc.
do you hve any idea about the cobination (pairing) ?
any comperible speakers less expensive than the eaton yet non inferiors in particulatr the bass feeeling ,,,
Paul Rigby1st March 2021 at 11:03 am
Technically, I don’t see any issue pairing the together.